Paul Froggatt

Executive chef, Huka Lodge

There’s a quote pinned to the wall of the kitchen at Huka Lodge: “The tradition is a perpetual motion. It advances, it changes, it lives”. For nearly 100 years, the kitchen has fed guests who come from around the world to catch trout in the luminescent blue-green Waikato River beside the luxury lodge. For five years, chef Paul Froggatt has led Huka Lodge’s kitchen, and in that time, has deftly advanced the tradition of the food it serves.

Paul has the musical, indistinct accent of someone who has lived in many places and borrowed something permanently from each. His food, too, blends influences from the many Michelin-starred restaurants he has worked in, from Devon to Burgundy to Hong Kong. “This is a European kitchen but we take some influence from Asia in terms of seasoning, in terms of lightness, in terms of freshness, in terms of balance of dishes. Some dishes are very rich and others are very light next to them.”

On the plate, local fish, game and stock entwine with vibrant seasonal produce from the Taupō region, speciality ingredients from artisan growers, and herbs and flowers from the lodge’s own potager garden. Some days the kitchen team range through the surrounding bush, foraging blackberries, elderflowers and native plants to add to the daily-changing menu. During the abundant summer months, they pickle and preserve and ferment, storing away bright jars to bring out in the depths of winter.

Almost every day there is trout, pulled from the river and lake by guests and proudly brought to Paul to prepare. A keen angler, Paul delights in the rainbow trout that come out of the lake in early summer, fat from gorging on the native freshwater kōura (crayfish). “You cut them open and they’ll be bright orange inside, like salmon. Those ones are beautiful.”

One day, he might confit it in olive oil, and present it on a broccoli couscous next to swirls of broccoli puree and fermented black garlic, topped with a cloud of roasted garlic foam and enlivened by fermented lime. Next week, though, it’ll be different. Like the river and tradition that Huka Lodge is founded on, Paul’s food is both constant, and new every day.

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